Friday, July 29, 2011

WorldCon Retrospective: 1950s Day Dress and Red Accessories

This is one of my all time favorite dresses. I think I wear it almost as often as my black and white check suit. Although it's not quite as versatile.

From my second photo shoot back in 2008. Taken by Vanessa Applegate. 
Sadly the little bag has since died.

I purchased it from Moon Zoom in Santa Cruz, CA for about $40. It was missing a belt and, because of the red trim (and red is hard to match) I had to go on an epic hunt for the perfect red belt. I finally found a quilted red patent one at Target for $20, which now lives with the dress.


The dress has pockets with red trim and buttons down the front giving it a shirt-dress feel. Because it is taffeta it is a little warm and doesn't travel well without wrinkling but I still wear it all the time. It's unlabeled and unlined so I don't believe it is designer. It certainly has that classic vintage look, though.

“Abandon” dress ca 1948 and another ca. 1950 both Christian Dior 
via The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Dresses like it show up in printed light-weight fabrics for the summertime throughout the late 1940s and early 50s. It's such a flattering cut and style, so much better than the modern shirt-dress.

Elizabeth Taylor unpacking at The Savoy 1951, and 1950 fashion plates.

I'm keeping an eye open for something like this dress for summer. Even though I generally prefer pencil dresses this one has taken hold of my heart. I also think it works better with flats than a pencil dress. The style not entirely old fashioned though, you can funk it up for the street if you like, and a version has shown up on the fall 2011 runways.

Galadarling.com by Gala, and Sophie Anne from True Blood in a fashion shoot.

I've worn my lovely black number for various readings and conventions. So much that it's semi retired while I give some of my other dresses and airing.

With my agent, Kristin Nelson, at the Denver WorldCon in 2008; and at a reading in 2009

It has an unnecessary zipper up the back. The first time I wore it I was traveling without a lady's maid and forgot to zip it up. Thus I showed up for dinner with my agent in a highly unfit state! So embarrassing. Shortly after meeting her face-to-face for the first time, she was zipping me up. That must be some kind of euphemism for the author/agent relationship.

As you can see from the second photo above, I went looking for an underskirt. Found one on Haight Street for about $15. I had to take down the hem to add length but it ended up being perfect.


Red is difficult. It's a hard color to match and some find it a hard color to wear. I'm empowered by red and I used this dress as an excuses to go all out on red accessories. I might, just possibly, be still using it as an excuse, particularly for shoes. 

Shiny flats, Nordstrom Rack $15, Miz Mooz $50
Via Spiga sandals, Nordstrom Rack $50; Via Spiga Wingtips Nordstrom Rack $50 
(color modified by me, future blog post pending)

I rarely wear this dress with the sandals. Despite what it might look like in the photo above, they are slightly too dark a red and the dress is too winter for sandals, if you ask me.

I love this bag, paid good money for it too $75, but I use it all the time.

As stated above, the purse I normally used for this outfit died the good death so I went hunting and ended up with this beauty. More recently this hat has come into my life. I can't wait to wear it with this dress.

Felt hat, Bon Marche Thrift Store, Sonoma $7.

Opera length red gloves inherited from my grandmother; red hair band from Claires $10; red baubles with gold spacers ~ necklace from Buffalo Exchanged on Haight Street $20, earrings from Salvation Army in Campbell $5.

I actually rarely wear these gloves with this dress as they are too long and have to be put on before the dress, which means I can never take them off again. So mostly I opt for black. The necklace set was quite the quest. I managed to source this set first . . .


I know, they look so similar, but this has silver chain and is a lighter more orangey red. Turns out they really didn't match anything in my wardrobe. In fact, I am thinking of getting rid of them . . . right . . . now! This red set plus a signed copy of Heartless to one person chosen at random from anyone who comments below, before my next post on Tuesday.


And here's a version for Alexia to wear.

1879-1881  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

37 comments:

  1. ooh! I want! I love wearing red jewelry. I have to wear a blue polo for work (at a shelter) so jewelry that's red and that claws can't get stuck in are my favorites.

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  2. I actually enjoy wearing red, I think it complements my skin tone. I also agree that the black dress and the others you pictured are superior to the modern shirt dress (and I enjoy a good shirt dress).

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  3. That is such a fab dress! And I love the red accessories! Funny Heloise just had an article today about packing (letter written by Joan Crawford that mentions packing belts, gloves and hats. :)

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  4. I love to wear red, and especially red and black in combination. I even recently purchased a lovely pair of red shoes to wear with all my red and black outfits (which surprised many people because I've never been much of a shoe person and live in my black boots).
    That is a lovely style for a dress. It looks so smart yet comfortable. I may have to acquire one for myself at some point. Although...I have greatly expanded my dress collection this summer and so my wardrobe may need to be purged again before I could justify getting one. Oh well, never hurts to keep an eye out anyway. Whilst I do love the black (especially in combination with all your fabulous red accessories), I'm tempted to look for one in black and white gingham. My favourite belt is black and would be lost on a pure black dress.

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  5. I'm wearing a black dress red belt/shoes combo today for the same reasons -- red is a great power color when I need a pick-me-up. No jewelry because the work lanyard gets in the way. I love my red ballet flats and belt to distraction, even if the shoes are a little worse for wear and even if a careless teen at work (I'm a library assistant) did say my belt reminded him of a weight-lifting safety belt.

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  6. Eek! Those red Miss Mooz heels are adorable! And they look kind of comfy. They remind me of something I'd find at Bunny's-- I never leave Santa Cruz without going there first. Well, there and the bookstore, naturally. : ) I must have SC on the brain, since you mentioned it in passing in your post. Ha!

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  7. I looove black and red. And you have a fabulous collection of red shoes. (I just got all of the Parasol Protectorate books for my birthday, It will be my second time through, but I definitely flew through Soulless in one day from beginning to end....You really are my hero, as an author and fashion icon.)

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  8. That top photo is so glamorous! The black and red is very elegant, and the idea of the underskirt is a terrific one.
    As always, thanks for Retro Rack!

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  9. Hmm... I might have to make a red skirt to go under my black shirtdress.

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  10. It's a gorgeous black dress and I really like your idea for the underskirt. I think the red is nice as an accent even though I detest red as a primary color in clothing (which my mother and I strongly disagree upon). I love the examples of black shirt-dresses you put up. <3

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  11. Red! I have a red dress which is lovely but I always feel like I stand out a lot when I wear it. I have a lot of black from orchestra concerts and such, and I think I may try adding red accents so I can wear those outfits more places.

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  12. I love red and black in combination, and you look divine in that outfit, especially with the red petticoat - it gives the dress such flair.

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  13. After I dyed my hair from bright red to brown I'm always on the hunt for red accesoires. Necklaces, brooches - well yes dresses too. I really dislike pastels, it has to really bold colours, so I like this post very much. :) It's also very nice how your dress looks with that red underskirt. That Dior dresses are just fabulous! So many pretty things in one blopost make me happy. :)

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  14. Oh, that dress is just gorgeous on you! I agree so much that a cut like that is very flattering, it's lovely on nearly everyone, I think.

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  15. Love the black and red together!

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  16. I am a big fan of red. It works well on me because I have the slightly pink-ish skin of a red head even though I am dark haired. I own many things in red: shirts, vests, jackets, dresses and jewellery. I don't find it hard to match because it's usually the focus of the outfit and gets paired with black, grey or white. I love the contrast it draws to darked colours. Sometimes, if I'm feeling daring, I wear it with purple. When I do that it's usually a red shirt or coat with a purple scarf.

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  17. Oh, and I forgot to add how much I love your red shoes! Shoes are the hardest thing for me to buy - I have so many things wrong my feet, including flat arches which mean I have to wear orthotics all the time, that it is hard for me to get good shoes. There is only one store in my city at which I am guranteed to find shoes to fit and they don't often have red shoes. Getting a pair of red shoes became like a holy quest for me, so when this store finally did have a pair in that I liked and that fit me, I was very excited and bought them straight away.

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  18. I'm not one for red all that much, but I do like it. And a Heartless copy would always be welcome :)

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  19. I love your red shoe collection. I'm up to three pairs of red shoes so far, so I should probably hold off on any new ones for a while.

    Red is one of my favorite colors to wear because, like you, I also find it empowering, and it tends to be a flattering color for me. I've been searching for the perfect red dress for a while, but haven't found anything yet.

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  20. Red is one of my fave colours and I think you look devine in it Gail

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  21. Don't want to be considered for the contest this time. I just wanted to say I'm always SO jealous of your ability to not just wear red, but wear it so well. I'm one of those people who just cannot wear it. It makes me look like I have some sort of hideous, highly infectious rash. And if you don't believe me, I have some pictures from a time mom forced me to wear it that will prove me right.

    Oh well, at least I have purple.

    Course, Gail, you are so fabulous with your ability to accessorize and have so much confidence you could probably be shipwrecked and wearing nothing but some old sailcloth, dried starfish, and shoes made from braided palm fronds and look like a million bucks.

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  22. Random but: yay for a hint of Mad Men at the end there.

    Also, I'm so glad there's a shirtdress post! I adore the style since it's both feminine and has a touch of tomboyish-ness that appeals to me. It's also a great way to do vintage in a modern way, especially since the past couple of seasons have seen some version of a shirtdress. I'm just glad a beautiful shirtdress has been around and will be around.

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  23. That's a lovely dress! Thanks for the giveaway, red is absolutely my favorite color. I usually go for more muted reds, maroon, or orange but they're all wonderful in my book :)

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  24. I'm never sure if contests include shipping outside of the U S of A...I live in Colombia, South America (although I'm from the United States--long story and true love involved :) ). Anyway, this blog, as well as your writer's blog are both interesting, and even though I don't sew, I appreciate NewVintageLady's blog which I found through you as well. All the best,
    Hillary

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  25. I really like the dress with the red underskirt. I love layering pieces like that but as I now live in TX it is just too hot! I also like pairing black with a deep purple. I have some purple patent leather heels and amethyst jewelry I enjoy wearing with a black dress sporting a vintage beaded collar that was my great-grandmothers. The collar, not the dress. :-)

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  26. i love black being a big lady it helps. i never thought of the red under. i usually wear the black under hmm.

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  27. I LOVE the color red! I just purchased red cowboy (cowgirl?) boots when I was on vacation in Wyoming. I wore them every day until I arrived home to hot, humid, and sticky Indiana. I can't wait to wear them once school begins with jeans and a red shirt and it cools off a bit. I'm always jealous of your thrift shop finds, we don't have anything like it where I live.

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  28. I love your writing and I love all of your vintage apparel and accessories. You remind me VERY strongly of my Aunt Cheryl, which is a good thing :-)

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  29. I am in the middle of an epic quest for a pair of red heels. I found the perfect ones when I was unemployed and they were gone by the time I had a job again and nothing else I've seen since has measured up. I love the pair of yours on the top right, oh man.

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  30. that red underskirt looks totally great. gotta find one, too! ;)

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  31. The only pair of shoes I have bought from a charity shop were a pair of Bruno Magli gorgeous blue/pink/navy/orange fabric flats with a matching bag, only £10. They need a very plain outfit to show them off & the shoes are a tad narrow, so they don't get worn very often.
    Red accessories go with most colours - navy, black, white, cream etc. I have a red bead necklace that goes well with a navy jacket & cream top - if I had chutzpah I'd have a red skirt to go with it, but I'm boring so the skirt/
    is navy.

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  32. I think that red is one of the most empowering colors a woman could wear. I find that it surprisingly complements an array of colors as well (pink, certain shades of green, yellow, black, gray, brown, blues come to mind). Lovely set here!

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  33. Ha! Very cute segue, and lovely dress. I have hips so I appreciate anything with a shape that flows nicely. That dress looks lovely and I'd love to be able to find the style; I love shirt dresses, but they tend to be narrow and always ride up on my hips waaaaay too high.

    Also, I love wearing red, but I also have the coloring for it in all shades (very pale, dark hair, greenish eyes).

    I'm on a quest to get my hands on Heartless, but I'm also on a quest for money at the moment so that may have to wait a bit.

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  34. I like red, plus it goes with black and grey. It is a colour I can wear.

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  35. @wolfgang20 In regards to your tad narrow shoes - do what I did, invest in a pair of professional grade shoe stretchers. The kind cobblers use. Something like these - thyough you probably want to buy from a UK based company so avoid high shipping & handling and exchange rates. Even shoes that otherwise fit can bennefit from a bit of pre-wearing stretching because it helps with the breaking them in period. As someone who wears a double-wide I don't know where my poor feet would be without shoe stretchers.

    Also, @Blogger - I am NOT anonymous, doggone it, I've logged in five times now! *sighs* This is Jami, because Blogger won't keep me logged in and let me claim credit for what I'm writing!

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  36. And of course, 6th try and 6th log in, the blasted thing works. *grumbles about stupid technology*

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